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Why Am I a Mosquito Magnet? The Real Buzz Behind the Bite

Summer is the season of backyard barbeques, relaxing on the beach and the ongoing saga of being the designated mosquito magnet. As the temperatures rise and the days grow longer, so does your entourage of bloodthirsty companions. 

While your friends bask in the sun's warm glow, you find yourself swatting and scratching, playing host to a mosquito party. Why do mosquitos seem drawn to you like a moth to a flame while your friends are blissfully unaware of these tiny bloodsuckers? 

We spoke with Bryan Kuhn, PharmD, a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with Banner Health, to understand the science behind why some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others, explore ways to find relief and provide tips to prevent them altogether. 

The truth behind mosquito attraction

Understanding what triggers mosquitos to bite is important. Mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika, malaria and West Nile virus spread with the unwitting help of these bloodsuckers. 

Could it be your body wash or the perfume you wear? Or maybe it’s your blood type? 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about the scent of your body wash or perfume, nor does your blood type solely determine it. The main reason mosquitos have a personal vendetta against you may be due to your body’s signature scent.

Body chemistry

“The combination of lactic acids, ammonia and fatty acids that live on your skin creates a ‘scent’ that mosquitos pick up on,” Dr. Kuhn said. “Mosquitos have highly sensitive sensors that can detect these chemicals from far away, guiding them towards their next meal.”

Carbon dioxide

Mosquitos are highly sensitive to carbon dioxide, which we exhale with every breath. People who exhale more often, such as pregnant people or those who engage in physical activity, are highly attractive to mosquitos.

Body heat

Mosquitos are also attracted to body heat. People with a higher body temperature, like pregnant people and those with a higher metabolic rate, may also be more attractive.


In a 2015 study, researchers compared mosquito activity in identical and non-identical twins. They found that identical twins, who share nearly 100% of their genetic material, shared similar levels of attractiveness to mosquitos. 

“While the study’s scale may not have proven the theory conclusively, their results were clear,” Dr. Kuhn said. “Genetics are shown to be the common variable in predicting mosquito attraction.”

Why do mosquito bites itch?

The simple answer, believe it or not, is you. 

“The itching sensation is your body’s immune response to the mosquito’s saliva, injected into your skin during feeding,” Dr. Kuhn said. “Mosquito saliva contains proteins that help them feed effectively but can trigger an immune reaction in most people.” 

Your immune response may be more aggressive than your friend’s, which could explain why your bites are bigger and itchier. 

How to treat mosquito bites

Fortunately, there are ways to find relief from the itch. The first, and maybe hardest, is leaving your fingernails out of it. 

“Scratching the itch will make it worse,” Dr. Kuhn said. “Damaging the skin or irritating the area will just call for a larger response from the immune system.”

Other simple steps to ease the itch include:

  • Topical treatments: Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch creams or lotions containing ingredients like hydrocortisone or calamine can provide relief.
  • Cold compress: Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb the itchiness.
  • Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines can help reduce itching and inflammation caused by mosquito bites. 
  • Natural remedies: Aloe vera gel, tea tree oil or oatmeal baths are popular natural remedies that may soothe mosquito bites.

If you have more questions about first aid or allergic reactions, ask your health care provider or call the Banner Poison & Drug Information Center at 800-222-1222.

Prevention is key

While it may seem impossible to avoid mosquitos, especially during the warmer months, you can take steps to minimize your attractiveness to them:

  1. Wear protective clothing: Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible. For children under 2 months old, use mosquito netting or a light blanket over the stroller.
  2. Avoid peak mosquito hours: Mosquitos are most active during dawn and dusk, so limit outdoor activities during these times.
  3. Stay away from standing water: Mosquitos breed in stagnant water, so regularly empty and clean items like flowerpots, birdbaths and gutters. 
  4. Use repellants: Apply insect repellants containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus (not to be confused with eucalyptus-based essential oil formulations) to exposed skin and clothing. “Make sure to follow instructions on the product label, as any of these products can cause side effects if not used properly,” Dr. Kuhn noted. “Stick to approved repellents on the EPA or CDC websites.”

Check out “Bye, Bye Bugs! Don’t Let Bug Bites Ruin Your Summer Fun” for more tips on preventing bites.


Being a mosquito magnet might feel like an unavoidable curse but armed with these tips you can reduce your risk of becoming a blood buffet for these pests. Beyond the nuisance of itchy bites, remember that mosquitoes can also transmit serious diseases like the West Nile virus. So protecting yourself from bites isn’t just about comfort — you are also safeguarding your health.  

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